On this rock

By: By Sister Michelle Rheinlander, OSB

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 24

Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138:1-2,2-3,6,8; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

It is difficult for us to imagine a world without Christ and all that his presence means. Today we see Christ naming Peter as the “rock” on which he will build his church and maintain his presence forever.

Peter learned of Jesus’ identity because it was revealed to him by God. He was chosen by Jesus for leadership because of his perception, which he proclaimed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks of Eliakim as one truly worthy of the high office of authority to carry on the House of David. He is given the key with exclusive power of opening and closing the palace that Shebna once had. Shebna was thrust from his office and called “a disgrace to your master’s house” because of his abuse of power.

In contrast, our brief reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans encourages us to offer ourselves body and soul to the will of God that we may be transformed and become holy and pleasing to God.

In the Gospel our attention is drawn to St. Peter, the rock upon which Jesus built his church, and as we look at our history we can see that men and women of great faith like Peter built the church that is ours. We cannot forget that they had been like Peter, people who had committed great sins against the Lord but rose out of that sinfulness and placed their trust, even their very lives, in service of him. As Paul tells us, “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

We Christians repeat what was revealed to Peter and to us: Jesus is the Christ. Once such revelation has been truly heard and believed, nothing can prevail against it.

The good news of the church is that Christ trusts us to proclaim throughout the ages that his identity has been revealed by God. He chose ordinary human beings who simply open themselves to be the first great hearers of this revelation.

“Revelation” doesn’t mean that we sit alone in silence waiting for God to speak to us. It means we open our eyes to see and our ears to hear and our hearts to experience Jesus’ presence in the daily happenings around us and recognize and receive the gift that is given to us.

A former educator and pastoral minister, Sister Michelle Rheinlander, OSB, is now engaged in a ministry of writing at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island.

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